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March 15, 2011
Published: Mar 15, 2011 - 10:58 AM
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March 15 2011

High ranking representatives of the Governments of Botswana and Namibia and those of the UN refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have been quietly meeting since yesterday at the town of Katima Mulilo, the regional capital of Namibia’s Caprivi Region, to discuss the repatriation of Caprivi refugees from neighboring Botswana. The furtive negotiations are taking place at the Zambezi River Lodge just outside the town, human rights monitors and reliable Namibian and Botswana government sources said.

High on the agenda is the “voluntary” repatriation of the close to 1 000 refugees who have been living in Botswana’s Dukwi Refugee Settlement since 1999, after armed men attacked three State installations in and or around Katima Mulilo on August 2 1999. At least eight people, including civilians, armed attackers and members of the Namibian security forces, have died during the said attack.

The ensuing systematic and widespread attack, which Namibian security forces have unleashed on the ethnic Mafwe civilian population, resulted in more than 2 500 people fleeing Namibia into neighboring Botswana. The egregious violations included infractions of certain peremptory norms of customary international and international humanitarian laws, such as ethnic cleansing, willful killing, torture, mass detentions and enforced disappearances, indiscriminately targeting ethnic Mafwes and members of the now-banned opposition United Democratic Party.

Following a systematic naming-and-shaming campaign led by NamRights, then Namibian Defense Minister Erikki Nghimtina reluctantly admitted that “mistakes” have been made under the state of emergency. Minister Nghimtina was referring to the attack on the civilian population. Then Namibian President Sam Nujoma imposed a state of emergency “to resolutely deal with the rebels”.

NamRights’ statistics show that more than 500 Caprivians were indiscriminately rounded up during the state of emergency and close to 150 were subsequently incarcerated on multiple high treason charges. Of the total, at least 20 prisoners have died in custody while awaiting trial and the remainder, being 113 men, is currently facing prosecution on at least 270 charges of high treason, each, through ongoing and seemingly never-ending marathon high treason trial commonly known as the Caprivi High Treason Trial (CHTT).

The CHTT has lately increasingly received widespread condemnation both at home and abroad, mainly because it has taken too long. During the UN-sponsored Universal Periodic Review of the general human rights situation in Namibia, held at UN Headquarters in Geneva, on January 31 2011, several UN Members States criticized Namibia over the marathon trial. NamRights classifies the treason trialists as political prisoners.

The Namibian and Botswana governments have been maintaining that the repatriation of the Namibian refugees from Botswana is a “voluntary” exercise, while the refugees themselves are stiffly resisting to be repatriated, saying that such exercise constitutes refoulement. The refugees also say they fear persecution, which includes prosecution on multiple high treason charges, prolonged detention without trial, torture and or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and enforced disappearance, once they have been repatriated.

During 2008 and 2009 NamRights discovered several ‘no name’ mass graves along Namibia’s northwestern borders following a tip by conscientious members of the Namibian security forces. The conscientious objectors told the human rights organization that they were forced to kill a large number of innocent people in the Caprivi, Kavango and Caprivi regions between 1999 and 2003.

The UN has demanded answers from the Namibian Government about the mass graves, but so far to no avail. To date widespread fear of Namibian security forces continues to unabatedly simmer among ethnic Mafwe people in the Caprivi Region.

In case of additional information, please call, e-mail or text: Steven Mvula or Phil ya Nangoloh at Tel: +264 61 253 447, +264 61 236 183 or +264 811 406 888 (office hours) or Mobiles: +264 811 299 886 (Phil) and or +264 812 912 948 (Steven) or E-mail: or or visit us at: Liberty Center, 116 John Meinert Street, Windhoek-West, Windhoek or visit us at:


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